We’ve been conditioned our whole lives to believe that the movie theater is a sacred place. A place where you go with other strangers to watch cinematic adventures. Well, you can bring friends or significant others but the majority of the crowd is mostly strangers. It’s math Geeklings. There are more then just movies at the movie theater though; there’s also popcorn, cherry coke, and candy. The lights are set low and the volume is on eleven (not that Eleven) and the screen is huge. Going to the movies might just be the very best place in all the land. I love going and try to go whenever I can (see you Friday for Logan), I just wish I didn’t have to sell the soul of my first born child in order to go. Come on, there’s no reason for a bottle of water to be six bucks. That’s criminal.
With our conditioning that the movie theater is a sacred place comes the knowledge that you’re not supposed to talk during the film. You can chat during the previews, how else are you going to tell the people you’re with what you want to see, but once that opening credit starts to roll you best shut your trap. There is nothing worse then be stuck behind (or in front) of a group of people who won’t shut up during the movie. I’ve had people answer cell phones, explain the plot, make bad commentary, just act like a bag of d’s, and do everything they can to distract from the movie watching experience. I do hope that there’s a special circle of hell saved for these individuals. Maybe a place where they go to the theater, get their popcorn and soda drink, sit in the chair, the lights dim, and the movie never starts. Maybe every five minutes a manager comes in and says that the movie will be starting in five minutes… but it never does.
All our lives we’re told that talking during the movies is wrong, but… what if there are special circumstances where it’s alright? I’ll let you process that for a minute because I know it goes against everything you’re preconditioned to think. There have been a few times where I’ve gone to the movies and the audience, as a whole, has cheered, groaned, screamed, and clapped their way through a film. Most memorable would be Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead re-make or as I remember it (before he started ruining DC characters), “The Greatest Movie Crowd Ever”. From the minute that the movie started people were shouting, cursing, screaming, giving advice as the main characters tried to survive the newest zombie apocalypse and it was awesome.
Side Note: These bastard zombies could run and that’s horrifying. Honestly, if a running zombie epidemic ever breaks out then we’re all screwed. Their bodies would never know what exhaustion is, because they’re dead, eventually they’re going to tire us out. Think about it.
Sorry, I’m getting distracted rather easily tonight. You would think that that much crowd participation would ruin the film but it’s the exact opposite. The crowd adopting that “one voice” mentality enhanced the experience. It felt that everyone in that theater was on the same level and enjoying themselves. Hell, I would have high fived people as things were going down if I wasn’t so glued to the screen. You can never take your eyes off a horror movie, that’s when they get you.
Last weekend I went to see Get Out and had a similar experience. Now, the audience participation wasn’t on the same level as Dawn of the Dead but that last half hour of the film saw the crowd really get active. There were cheers and sighs, groans and screams, there was applause, and this overall sensation of glee spreading though out the theater. For me, someone who loves writing fiction, that’s the biggest compliment to the writer that you could give. When I sat down to think of why an audience would respond that way, I came up with one conclusion. That the tension that the film has created is sooooooo high and so taut that the only release that the audience has is to be vocal. If they don’t let their emotions out then they literally might explode. That’s masterful story telling right there folks.
Much like the Dawn of the Dead experience, this crowd only enhanced what was already a fantastic film. It took something that was already great (seriously go see this thing) and made it greater. But that got me thinking… would this work all the time? No, no it would not. If an audience was to do something like this during a film like The Wrestler (why of all the movies in the world did I pick this?) it would ruin not only the experience but the film. Think about it, what if the crowd let out a loud groan when no one showed up to his autograph session? Makes that heavy moment kind of cheap now. Again, I have no idea why I went with The Wrestler but the important lesson is that those types of moments seemed to be experienced on a more personal level.
I honestly believe that horror movies are a rare breed of film that can garner this type of response without compromising the movie or making you want to punch someone in their voice maker. I think horror movies almost will that type of participation and if you go to see one in the theater and everyone is quiet then it means you’re watching a pretty shitty horror movie. Horror movies thrive on creating tension and how else are you going to let it out other then yelling “no you get the hell out of that room”.
The larger question here Geeklings is, is this type of behavior acceptable? Should we be offended that people are actively yelling at the movie or should we join in all the fun? The movie experience is special and sacred but does that mean it has to be experienced in complete silence? Think about when you’re watching a movie at home with friends, or with your cat. Have you ever watched something without someone talking or making jokes or making commentaries to your cat? That helps make the experience fun at home because you can joke with your pals, but if a large group of people want to scream and shout with you in a theater, why is that any different? It’s not like you’re sitting behind the group of people who are trying their hardest to do a Mystery Science Theater impression (those people need to get tossed), but with like minded people who can’t take what they’re watching either.
If you’re looking to do a case study on this then keep your eyes on the release schedule of horror movies. Be sure to go opening weekend when the crowds are the biggest, and experience it for yourself. Maybe you’ll come away with a different point of view. Just something to chew on.